Date: September 30, 2022
The stories of children, struck by a tragic fate, will be told where organ donation is almost non-existent. In Italy, 28% still oppose donations.
The story shook the conscience of Italians. Nicholas Green, the 7-year-old American boy on vacation in Italy with his family, was shot to death from a bullet on the Salerno Reggio Calabria highway, 28 years ago: thanks to his parents decision to donate his organs and corneas, five people were saved and sight was restored to two others. The gesture prompted many compatriots to follow the example of the Greens: donations, therefore transplants, increased and lives were saved.
Last April, Rolly Prajapati, a six-year-old Indian girl, was killed in a shooting: her parents also decided to donate organs. Nicholas’ and Rolly’s families have turned their personal tragedy into a generous act of solidarity with people, unknown to them, waiting for a new organ. Now, with a new campaign to increase organ donation which starts in Messina on October 1st, the hope is that the Nicholas effect will be repeated in the poorest countries in the world — but also in developed ones, including Italy, where every day someone on the waiting list dies.
Love for Italy reciprocated
Reginald Green, Nicholas’ father, returned to Italy to support the new campaign: it will start on the same date (October 1) and in the same hospital where Nicholas died; this time the story of a little Indian girl will help tell the world that what distinguishes the life of an organ donor is not the sudden calamity that caused his death, but the new life that it has generated, and the hope of a better world that follows. Nicholas – remembers moved Reginald Green, now 93 – loved Italy and although he was only seven, we had already brought him here three times. “Since his death, Italy has repaid that love of him many times, including over a hundred places named after him. Even more, the love of Italy was revealed in a practical way: in the ten years following his death, organ donation rates tripled. Understanding the strength of that reaction is crucial to our new campaign which will be similar to the one that focused on Nicholas and which was so successful in Italy, but this time it will include Rolly. We will tell their stories in places in the world where organ donation is almost non-existent and where, every year, hundreds of thousands of people die while they could be saved by transplanting new organs if they were donated.”
Replicate the Nicholas effect
With the pandemic, donation rates have dropped around the world – explains Professor Deepak Gupta, a neurosurgeon at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, who coordinated Rolly Prajapati’s organ donation. In India, where organ donations are very few and pediatric ones are almost unknown, thanks to the media attention for the story of Rolly, whose organs have saved other children, donations increased from April to August by over 60%. The hope is that the Nicholas Effect – which has driven the increase in donations in Italy – will be repeated in the poorest countries in the world but also in the areas lagging behind with donations, including some Italian regions.
There are those who still oppose it
“In Italy, at the beginning of the pandemic there was a decline in donations and transplants. Last year there was a recovery, with an increase of more than 10 percent compared to 2020, and donations also increased by 6%”, says Letizia Lombardini, medical director of the National Transplant Center. In our country too, the availability of donated organs is still lower than needed. “Last year there were over 8,000 people on the waiting list for a transplant”, Lombardini reports. In our country, the opposition rate to donations averaged 28 percent. In addition to the refusal to remove the organs made by the relatives of the deceased person, they also registered too many “no” responses to donation at the time of issue or renewal of the identity card. Dr. Lombardini reports: “In 2021, out of 5 million Italians who renewed their identity cards, 3 million expressed their willingness to donate organs, several said “no”, others still did not express themselves.”
The organ donation awareness campaign starts in Messina where the first edition of the International Conference will be held on 1 and 2 October (DONARTE 2022 – DOnation and Art: Nicholas And Rolly Testimonials.)
“Sicily is at the bottom of the national donor ranking. There are just 11 donors per million inhabitants (compared to a national average of 24), while the opposition rate (people opposing donation) is over 40 percent” – the director of the anesthesia complex operating unit of the “Martino” Polyclinic of Messina, Anna Teresa Mazzeo said. “The awareness of citizens is fundamental, which must go hand in hand with the training of health personnel”.
Originally published in “Il Corriere della Sera” newspaper. Link: https://www.corriere.it/salute/22_settembre_30/trapianti-dono-genitori-piccoli-nicholas-green-rolly-prajapati-04b36fa4-4096-11ed-8b65-55aa2f703574.shtml
This English version is adapted from: https://time.news/transplants-that-gift-from-nicholas-and-rollys-parents-that-saved-lives-time-news/